When they weren't swimming, they could walk along the boardwalk for snacks (hot dogs with chili were invented there), and eventually other attractions: side-show acts, carnival rides, burlesque shows, bodybuilders.
Coney Island had its own muscle beach.
Two amusement parks developed, Luna Park and Dreamland, with rides, games, and carnival acts.
It was the place to go for working-class New Yorkers. They have included fond memories of Coney Island into dozens of movies (Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Wanderers) and tv programs (Seinfeld, The Golden Girls), in songs and poems and novels.
And, of course, photographers roamed the crowds, capturing the joy and pain of the young men who came for momentary relief from the drudgery of everyday life.
These boys are doing some sort of feat of strength on Muscle Beach in 1905.
Why no swimsuit? Was this a spur-of-the-moment outing, or couldn't he afford one?
This guy seems to have lost his pants. Nice bulge.
This is Muscle Beach, 1967, aka two guys holding hands.
More after the break.
Morris Engel (1918-2005) grew up in Brooklyn, and had his first photographic exhibition in 1939. He photographed Coney Island boys and men throughout his life. His independent film Little Fugitive (1953) is about a boy who runs away from home to Coney Island..
Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) preferred to photograph and draw the ladies of Coney Island, but occasionally he presented some beefcake.